Marketing is often characterized as more of an art than a science. It can be difficult to know how to go about marketing a product in a systematic way. However, three distinct marketing levels should be included in every marketing initiative. Keeping these three levels in mind will help managers realize the full potential of their marketing strategy.

Core Product Level Marketing

The core product is not actually the product itself, but the key benefit that the product offers. For example, if the product is a TV, the core product is the benefit of being able to watch TV programs. Core products are rarely used in marketing because they do not usually offer a competitive edge over competitors. For instance, the benefit of being able to watch TV programs is not enough to persuade most customers that a particular TV is superior. It can be used, however, if the product offers rare and new benefits.

Actual Product Level Marketing

The actual product is the physical product that the customer buys. If the customer buys a boat, for example, the actual product is the boat with its various physical attributes. Marketing at this level involves the design, style and quality of the product. Firms should design their products to fit the needs of their consumers. For instance, if market research shows that consumers want moderately priced sailboats and that quality is a low concern, then the firm should produce boats that fit that market demand.

Augmented Product Marketing Level

The augmented product includes all the additional services that are added on to a product in order to add value and differentiate the product. These include factors such as customer service, warranties and financing. This level of marketing has the greatest potential to influence customers and differentiate products from the competitors. For example, two cars might have the same core benefits and the actual products might be nearly identical, but a firm that markets its additional services can create additional value in the eyes of the consumer.

Combining Levels

Although marketing occurs at three distinct levels, it is important for firms to include all three in their overall marketing. A good marketing initiative will promote the core product, the actual product and the augmented product. For instance, a computer might be marketed as a device allowing people to run programs and access the Internet (the core product), as a high quality device with an innovative design (the actual product) and as offering an extended warranty and customer service (the augmented product).